“it’ll all be done by Christmas” …

As I might have mentioned we are still edging ever near to the end of our ongoing “it’ll all be done by Christmas” building project.  Back in December  work started on moving the kitchen from one side of the house to the other, having forgotten a new cooker hood would be required, we set to work finding one it needed to be 110cm long and black.  I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s difficult to get that excited about choosing a metal box that sucks up steam and cooking smells.

Within minutes we’d ordered one that looked a bit like a stove pipe hat, from a reputable online store.   It promptly arrived a few days later, annoyingly the electric wire supplied was faulty, but we found a spare kettle lead and the installation continued, it then became apparent that due to a slight bulge on the main body of the hood (stay with me) the chimney part could not be slotted into its given groove.

I reported back to the purveyor, who required answers lots of intensely detailed questions.  In the end, fed up of the tooing and froing, we made a film starring builder Will who explained and pointed to where the problematic bulge was, the sound was good and I made an effort to get the lighting just right.  It worked, and a replacement cooker hood was delivered… unfortunately with exactly the same defect.

Despite reassuring me that the serial number of the 3rd cooker-hood-of-man, being sent out was not of the same batch as the previous two, when it arrived this sadly proved not to be the case – the battle of the bulge continued.

An engineer was dispatched to fix and fit the flipping thing.  He took one look at the offending item and said it was un-fittable due to a bulge stopping the chimey part to find it’s groove.

Just think for 44 years, I’d been merrily oblivious to this tumultuous world of all things cooker hood!  Come on then, fourth time lucky – we ordered an entirely different model from a different company, it turned up last week having taken 4 weeks to arrive.  It’s beautiful, shiny and black, just the right length, lovely chrome buttons, the electrics are all in place, which is more than can be said for the 2 fixing brackets and bolts, black self tapping screws and instruction pack.  Here we go again.


‘A Plasterer in Paris’…

It’s a big day today for our ongoing, “it’ll all be done by Christmas” building project.  For months we’ve heard lists of things that can or can’t be done before or after the screeders.  I have pictured the screeders as being like magical characters from a Harry Potter book, ancient and bit worldy wise.

In reality this is not a completely accurate description, although our chief screeder looks just like Robin Williams as Mork (of Mork and Mindy fame) and he was pretty mystical.  Screeders get up super early the knock-on effect of this being us having to get up even earlier (like the day before!) to make sure the kettle is on.

Screeders, like plasterers are very bendy, I feel they would be naturally good at yoga.  I think some amazing choreographer like Matthew Bourne should write a contemporary ballet featuring these guys it could be called ‘A Plasterer in Paris’ or ‘Screeding in the Rain.’ I have found myself utterly mesmerised by the skill of these chaps and their ability to make large expanses of rough uneven wall or floor become smooth like marble and all so effortlessly.

As an added bonus we discovered our other screeder likes to sing and treated us all to a rendition of Elton John and Kiki Dee’s hit ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ covering both parts which isn’t easy to do.  The less glamorous side of screeding involves other people filling endless wheelbarrows of heavy wet brown cement-y stuff and dumping it around the room.  They had this very whizzy self levelling laser machine which shone a bright red light all round the edge of the room.  I quite fancy buying one but realistically I don’t think I’ll get much ware out of one.

Most of our day has been spent keeping Alan the dog away from the wet screed, building walls of defence using whatever comes to hand 3 bags of cement and a watering can.  It’s like a red rag to a bull he has thus far managed to find a way of leaving a set of paw prints on every wet surface available, although he excelled himself running through a channel of fresh concrete in the kitchen not once but twice, the funniest thing being builder Rich trying to catch him and ending up ankle deep in concrete too.  I shouldn’t speak too soon but currently Screeders 1 – Alan 0.


This information will neither make or break your Wednesday but …

Computers are wonderful, modern technology saves us hours of needless toil, until they flipping stop working and you start missing deadlines because you’re having to now do multiple hours of afore mentioned toil.
It started with the phone, it’s given me 4 years of almost stress free service but after regularly cooking out at inconvenient moments I purchased a newer model.  Just as I was about to plug it into the computer and boot it up to transfer all the information from the old mobile to the new,  I thought I’d just have a quick look at the suggested procedure and there it stated that it would be best to make sure my computer software was fully up to date.  Fair enough, upon closer inspection I see that there was an available update a whacking great big one of over 5 GB.  As our broadband connection is about equal to the dizzying speeds of 1990’s dial up, I put the phone to one side, and set the upgrade to download overnight. 
This morning I set the new upgrade to install onto the computer, cue 5 hours of hell and meltdown. It became almost funny…. almost.  The computer said ‘no’ to the update but the upgrade wasn’t having any of it and kept repeatedly trying to install itself despite the computer throwing up every excuse it could think of to avoid, what I assumed to be the inevitable.  I assumed wrong and neither would back down, the computer now so hacked off with me that it refuses point blank to go back to the previous version where we were both so happy, so there I was in Catch 22 city.  
After an hour of trying to further negate update-gate I turn to our local computer repair shop and Tom talked me through a hopeful solution.  The update and the computer have now been in peace talks for nearly 2 hours and have reported via a small dialogue box that they should have reached a decision in the next 34 minutes.   Meanwhile the new phone sits gathering dust in a drawer, the old phone has been called back into service so I can try to get this column finished typing with 2 fingers onto a tiny screen.  I appreciate that this information will neither make or break your Wednesday but I felt compelled to share. Marvellous flipping inventions, computers grrr.

Swing’s The Thing

We’re swinging into 2018 with the ‘Swing’s The Thing’. 

This brand new show sees Clare and her excellent musicians effortlessly traverse a rich landscape of timeless and sparkling material, with standards from the grand masters of the Great American Song Book, Cole Porter & Rodgers & Hart, to witty urbane song stylists of the 50’s & 60’2 Cy Coleman & Carolyn Leigh & Dave Brubeck, there’s always a not to more contemporary writers and originals too.

So check out our listings page for a venue near you and join us for a celebration of popular music from the golden age of song that guarantees to be upbeat and uplifting to the extreme!




The winners of the British Jazz Awards 2017 were announced late on Wed 8th November.  Featuring a broad array of jazz talent and now in their 31st year they are the only poll that gives jazz lovers up and down the country the chance to vote on who their favourite musicians, bands and albums have been in the last 12 months.

Teal, who has previously won the British Jazz Awards for vocals in 2005, 2007 and 2015, is a sought after singer throughout the country with her stunning voice, encyclopaedic knowledge of jazz, swing and big band music, and her innate warmth as well as a prolific recording artist and popular BBC Radio 2 broadcaster.

Clare Teal says ‘It is an honour to win any award and as the British Jazz Awards are voted by the public it is pretty special to win for a fourth time particularly with the stellar line-up of nominees.   So a big thank you to those who gave me their vote and a massive congratulations to all the other winners and nominees’.

Click here for the full list of winners and nominees



All of Manchester’s communities stand together in strength, resilience and love.

In this most musical of cities, Manchester’s orchestral musicians from the Hallé, the BBC Philharmonic and the Manchester Camerata will come together with The Bridgewater Hall for a concert in support of the families and friends of the victims of last Monday’s atrocity.

The event details are:

  • Thursday 1 June at 8pm
  • The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
  • Sir Mark Elder and Stephen Bell will conduct members of the Hallé, Manchester Camerata and BBC Philharmonic orchestras
  • Performances by Clare Teal, Alice Coote and Guy Garvey

The evening will include inspiring and uplifting classical music, a performance by Alice Coote – one of the world’s finest mezzo sopranos – as well as songs from international jazz star Clare Teal and award-winning singer-songwriter Guy Garvey.

Everyone involved with the event are giving their services free. Tickets for the concert are free, but you MUST have a ticket to gain entry.

We are asking people, if they are able, to make a donation to the WeStandTogetherManchester Justgiving page at


You can get the latest information, details on admission and book tickets by visiting www.halle.co.uk/westandtogether. You can also contact the box office on 0161 907 9000. The Bridgewater Hall has waived its usual ticket charge. You will need your tickets to gain entry to the building.

Please check the Hallé link above for updated information as it is confirmed.



Royal Albert Hall, 3pm Sunday 27th August 2017

Tickets on sale from 9am Saturday 13th May 2017 

From Stomps and Shuffles, Boogie-Woogie, Blues, Bebop to Latin, ‘Swing No End’   promises another powerful and upbeat slice of musical action from the 1930’s & 1940’s.

Featuring 2 roaring big bands and special guests battling against each other led by Guy Barker and Winston Rollins, singer and broadcaster Clare Teal, takes us another journey celebrating the triumphs of big band greats including Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmie Lunceford, Boyd Raeburn, Machito, Stan Kenton and Woody Herman.



Twelve O’Clock Tales Is Here!

Our new album, Twelve O’Clock Tales, accompanied by the wonderful Hallė orchestra launched at The Bridgewater Hall on Saturday 30th April.

Conducted by Stephen Bell and arranged by British composer and trumpet maestro Guy Barker and celebrated jazz pianists Grant Windsor and Jason Rebello, Twelve O’Clock Tales’ rich jazz infused repertoire, with songs from Cole Porter, Billy Strayhorn and  Tim Rice, made famous by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Nancy Wilson and Peggy Lee, includes ‘Sans Souci’, ‘Secret Love’, ‘Feeling Good’, ‘Lush Life’, ‘It Might As Well Be Spring’, ‘Wild Is The Wind’ and ‘Paradisi Carousel